Extreme Weather Warning

Fires. Floods. Freak storms. Droughts. Why it’s only going to get worse.



Last week, after rampant forest fires had decimated thousands of hectares of his homeland, and burned alive dozens of his countrymen, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin boarded an amphibious aircraft to witness the blazes for himself. Within a few minutes of sitting in the passenger compartment, Putin—never one to resist a fight, or a photo op for that matter—strode briskly to the cockpit and assumed the co-pilot’s seat and headset. Upon direction, Putin, who doesn’t have his flying licence, swooped down and drew 12 tonnes of water from the Oka River, and then doused the scorching forests beneath, extinguishing two fires. All this in 30 minutes.

As superheroic as this act may have seemed, it fell drastically short: below, hundreds more raging fires were turning lush trees into charred toothpicks. At least 2,000 homes have burned down, including 341 in less than an hour. Survivors found nothing but scrap metal, which they gathered up to sell off. Farmers, meanwhile, have seen their grain crop cut by a third, and counting.

The only thing spreading faster than the fires is fear: that dangerous radioactive material on land contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster will be churned up, for instance. Experts insist that a far more realistic and deadly threat is the toxic smog that has blanketed Russia in a sepia haze ever since daily temperatures surged to 40° C and higher—hotter than it’s been there since the 11th century, the Russian weather service chief said. Government officials have warned that breathing the polluted air is like smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day, so Russians have taken to wearing those face masks ubiquitous to disasters, most recently the H1N1 scare. They’ve also retreated to the lakes to cool off, but even this activity has been lethal: swilling too much vodka before swimming led to more than 1,000 drownings in June alone, when the heat wave began.

Before then, “Russians would have laughed if you had asked them if this would happen,” says Ghassem R. Asrar, director of the World Climate Research Programme at the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Normal summer temperatures there hover in the low 20s in the hottest parts. Imagining the “Great Russian heat wave of 2010,” as this hot spell has been dubbed, would have been preposterous. “They’d have said it’s like being in Saudi Arabia,” Asrar told Maclean’s.

Except that even Saudi Arabia’s weather has been extraordinary this summer, with temperatures reaching above 47° C. In fact, record heat has occurred in 17 countries, including Pakistan, where on May 26, the mercury hit 53.5° C—suffocating four people to death. Since then, the heat has given way to the unthinkable: catastrophic floods, which have killed at least 1,600 Pakistanis and ruined the homes and livelihoods of more than 20 million others. There are concerns of a cholera outbreak, and the country is now facing a shortage of drinking water. The UN, which has appealed for $460 million in immediate international aid, has called this the greatest humanitarian crisis in history—more devastating than the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake combined. The funds have been slow in coming, though, and some worry that the Taliban will step in instead. Worse still, there is no end in sight: forecasters warn more floods are coming, and urge “all the concerned authorities?.?.?.?to take necessary precautionary measures to avoid/minimize loss of lives and infrastructure.”

On the spectrum of extreme weather, Pakistan and Russia are obviously the worst effected. But new data shows that the whole world is experiencing unprecedented levels of radical weather. In June, the global land and ocean average surface temperature was the hottest it’s been since 1880, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States began keeping records. And July was the 305th consecutive month that the global temperature was above average, meaning the last time the mercury dipped unusually low was in February 1985.

Even Canada’s distinction as a moderate country hasn’t safeguarded us from outrageous weather patterns: heat waves in Ontario and Quebec have caused power outages this summer and sent a record 158 people to one Ottawa ER in a single day. Hundreds of wildfires are engulfing portions of British Columbia. And after severe droughts in the spring, the Prairies have been flooded.

If this strange and severe weather was once hard to imagine, it’s now hard to ignore. “Extreme events are becoming more common,” says Heidi Cullen, a climatologist based in Princeton, N.J., and author of the new book, The Weather of the Future. What is happening in Russia and Pakistan may not feel like a real threat to North America, but she says “it should feel real.” As the Earth continues to heat up, “who is to say that couldn’t happen in Canada or the United States?” Cullen asks. “It will happen eventually.” Asrar agrees. “We will see more extremes, and they’ll last longer and be very strong.” In other words, he says, in the future “anything is possible.”

To understand how extreme weather is becoming more common, scientists start by looking back. Over the last 100 years, the global average temperature has steadily increased by a little more than 1° F. That doesn’t seem like much. But if a typical day is going to be warmer, then the heat waves will be as well. This also affects storm activity: the hotter it gets, the more heat the oceans absorb. The heat evaporates into the atmosphere as water vapour. Warm air can hold more water vapour than cold air, so once the atmosphere is saturated, it dumps exceptional amounts of rain.

Using computer models, scientists from 20 climate centres around the world have forecast that by the end of the century, the Earth’s temperature will increase by at least 2° F. “When you add it up over the entire planet, that’s a huge amount of heat,” says Asrar. It’s also an average, he emphasizes. “This warming is not going to be uniform globally, and the problems that we’re going to experience are going to [vary] by region.”

A quick scan of extreme weather events around the world since the beginning of the year is proof of that. Since late July, Portugal has been battling 300 forest fires a day after experiencing a severe heat wave, including one blaze that has ravaged the country’s only national park and others that killed two firefighters. In the spring, 80 people died in New Delhi after temperatures reached 44° C, a 52-year high. Australia was overrun with floods and landslides in March after a freak storm cut power to 100,000 homes.

That same month, China experienced its worst drought in six decades—50 million people faced water shortages. Avalanches killed 150 Afghans in February, while 32 Brazilians died of heat that month after the country endured its hottest temperatures in half a century. Snowstorms that hit the United States—nicknamed “Snowmageddon” by Barack Obama, who traded his armoured limo for an all-wheel-drive SUV—caused such a chill in Florida that iguanas and pythons were falling frozen and catatonic from trees.

The cold also shrunk orange crops, and boosted the price of OJ.

In much of Canada, temperatures this summer have been the hottest in more than 60 years. In Victoria, where a typical summer high is 22° C, thermometers now register in the low 30s. That heat has put two-thirds of B.C. at high risk of forest fires as of mid-August. Battling the blazes has cost $107 million so far, and firefighters from Ontario and Alberta have been dispatched to help out. In New Brunswick, where it’s also been unusually hot, the number of forest fires is actually down, thanks largely to the extreme humidity. It’s also made Toronto’s 17 days of 30° C weather or higher—up from just three days last summer—feel much steamier.

The situation couldn’t be more different for Calgary, which in mid-July experienced a sudden storm that caused at least $100,000 worth of damage at the University of Calgary greenhouse after hail the size of golf balls burst through the glass rooftop. Last week, the Insurance Board of Canada announced that the property damage caused by the storm—dented cars, broken windows, leaky roofs—could top $400 million, more than any other hailstorm in the nation’s history. The excess precipitation occurring across the Prairies has also cost grain farmers money: Saskatchewan and Manitoba could lose up to $3 billion this year, according to a BMO Capital Markets report, since 20 per cent of crops never got planted this season.

Going forward, there is little doubt that Canada will experience more severe weather, says David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. “In a warmer world, you connect the dots and you see clearly there are going to be threats.” But he emphasizes that there are parameters around what we should expect. “A lot of people think that we’ll have a totally different climate. It’s not going to be like typhoons in Saskatoon and sandstorms in St. John’s.” Rather, he says, “things that are rare will become more common. The kind of flood that you might expect every 20 years will occur maybe once every seven years. So it’s the frequency, the intensity, the duration” that will change.

A group of 250 leading scientists at a climate change consortium called Ouranos in Montreal have been using computer models to predict what, specifically, each part of Canada may soon experience as the Earth heats up. In the Maritimes, for example, the big concern is probably going to be coastal erosion and more intense hurricanes as air and ocean temperatures increase. Of the four or five that arrive on the East Coast every year, most are subdued by the very cold Atlantic Ocean, explains Alain Bourque, head of the impact and adaptation group at Ouranos. “You need a water temperature of above 26° C to strengthen a hurricane, and the maritime water is well below that now. But the point is that if instead of being 10° C it’s 12° C, then the hurricane is not stopped as easily.”

Ontario and southern Quebec will likely experience more heat waves—including during the winter. The good news is less snow to shovel, but the bad news is more risk of winter flooding. The mounting heat will also cause more freeze-thaw cycles as temperatures fluctuate. That puts tremendous strain on roads and bridges, says Bourque, and causes another major problem that we’ll see more of: burst pipes.

In the Prairies, more droughts are anticipated, he continues, and on the West Coast, rising sea levels will make the region particularly vulnerable to floods and tidal forces. Places such as Vancouver, Richmond and communities along the Delta River feature “hot spots where the land and infrastructure are at risk of storms [causing] damage,” and that’s worrisome given the large population concentrated in this area.

Elsewhere in the world, Bangladesh is expected to be hit hard. Today, two-thirds of the country is only 17 feet above sea level, explains Cullen in her book. With 230 rivers, and 162 million inhabitants, this densely populated area is already prone to floods and monsoons. A 3.3-foot increase in sea level would submerge one-fifth of Bangladesh, estimates Cullen. “Almost every study agrees that at least 20 per cent of the country will disappear in the next decades,” adds Bourque. “In an already overpopulated country, you can imagine what’s going to happen there.”

Realizing this, many Bangladeshis are already fast becoming “climate refugees,” fleeing to nearby India. But even India may not be an extreme-weather safe haven—it is plagued by monsoons. “The scientists there have seen that over the last 50 years, their strength and duration have grown,” explains Asrar. And there’s every reason to believe this trend will persist to be “a major problem.”

Of course, these projections are just that: early estimations that scientists are still developing. The big riddle is exactly what that 2° F average global increase will mean for different parts of the world. So far, indications suggest that the high latitudes will be more affected than mid or lower latitudes. How much more? Asrar points to colour-coded maps by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies that project that places such as Canada to Russia and the pole regions may see double the amount of warming, or even triple. One thing is certain: no place is immune to extreme weather. As these events become more evident around the world, Cullen believes that we will realize the importance of figuring out how to deal with them—before they occur. Because right now, she says, “we are not prepared for the curveballs that Mother Nature throws our way.”

The obvious question facing communities today is how to adjust to extreme weather in ways that will cause the least amount of destruction to people, property and possessions. It’s a daunting challenge, but a number of communities have, in recent years, launched action plans to investigate their vulnerabilities and to brainstorm solutions. “Every community has its own Achilles heel,” says Cullen.

After New York City learned last year that it would be prone to more heat waves, rain and flooding in the future, Rockaway waste water treatment plant in Queens decided it wouldn’t wait for disaster to arrive.

Instead, working in conjunction with the local department of environmental protection, the plant’s electrical equipment, including breakers and pump motors, were moved—from 25 feet below sea level to 14 feet above sea level.

Cities such as Vancouver have a combined sewer system that manages both sanitary waste and stormwater. A 2008 report by Ouranos and Engineers Canada found that by 2020, the Greater Vancouver sewage infrastructure will be vulnerable to increased rainfall, rising sea levels, floods, extreme winds and gusts. The report warned of the “public health risks from contamination arising from overflows?.?.?.?into spaces such as streets and basements.” Now, the city is planning to move to a sewer system that will allow different types of waste water flowing in separate pipes by 2050—to the tune of $2.75 billion over the next 10 years.

Where people live in flood-prone zones, governments are mobilizing to relocate residents. Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota, for instance, have buyouts in place for people who live along the banks of the Red River. In the past, Manitoba has paid pre-flood market value for 42 cottages in Breezy Point, and the prices were shared between the three levels of government. Other cities such as Calgary are implementing better heating and air conditioning in places that are susceptible to extreme temperatures, such as streetcars.

In Halifax, the government spent $250,000 to map its harbour and the surrounding area with a plane-mounted light imaging technology called LIDAR. The data is used to predict rising sea levels and will help developers manage their risk due to flooding and hurricanes over the next century. Meanwhile, in Toronto, $34 million has been allotted toward tree-planting and green roofs—which provide shade and absorb greenhouse gases. There are also “man-made trees” in development, which look like futuristic football goalposts that suck greenhouse gases out of the air.

The unfortunate reality is that “even if we stopped emitting [greenhouse gases] cold turkey, we’d still see warming because they remain in the environment for a long time,” says Cullen. What’s more, most of these improvements are expensive—for those countries that can afford them in the first place—and will take years to fully implement. After that, they might still be no match for what Phillips of Environment Canada calls “the awesome power of Mother Nature” unleashed.

In a lot of ways, until now Canada has been fortunate. For starters, because we have four seasons, we are accustomed to adapting to the ever-changing weather and temperatures, says Phillips. We also have a small population and low density, “so the fact is, nature can’t find you” the way it might pick on people in Bangladesh. “Of all the disasters we’ve had every year, every one of them could have been worse.

What continues to surprise me is why there are not more deaths due to weather in Canada,” he says.
But the longer people insist on living in places where they shouldn’t—think Louisiana or even some small coastal communities in Canada—and the more we delay improving infrastructure and mitigating the effects of greenhouse gases, the more danger is lurking. This means that the cost of extreme weather is going to go up, in terms of material damage—and loss of life. “It’s what I fear the most,” says Phillips. “We are going to be in nature’s way.” As more extreme weather arrives here, “Our luck is going to change.”

For now, Canadians and just about everyone outside of Pakistan and Russia are getting schooled second-hand in the drama and trauma that could affect them next. “We will all feel the impact,” says Cullen. “The world is very interconnected.”


Extreme Weather Warning

  1. Most people have known about the increase in extreme weather due to global warming for years. Still, it's scary to think of the implications.

  2. Extreme weather is not unusual, the difference today is instantaneous communications, that's all. Ancient texts have lots of references to extreme weather, perhaps a handful of people have heard something about a flood? To run around screaming 'The End Is Nigh' is a lot of fun, and savvy businessman can make a good living at it like Al Gore, but the reality is that the end is not nigh.

    • We've had instantaneous communications for years now. We're seem to be seeing a definite ramp up in the number of occurrences of extreme weather. Of course, those are just facts. I realize they don't compare to the truthiness you get from your gut.

      • We've had instantaneous communication for less than 50 years. In geological terms that's the equivalent of a popcorn fart yet anytime something even remotely odd happens weather wise you and your chicken little brethren scurry out of the shadows screaming “repent repent the flood is at hand”

        • Perhaps if you took your Ritalin, you'd be able to focus your attention enough to the message below as well, where I caution against that exact thing.

          That said, right now it seems that we're seeing a lot more extreme weather events than we have in the last 50 years. Too early to call it a trend,I'll agree, but it begins to add more weight to the predictions.

        • What if you're wrong?

          Pretty risky to do nothing and roll the dice.

          • Excellent thought. The naysayers who think they know more than the experts will blame the liberals when they realize they were wrong.

          • But at least I won't have to separate my recycling.

    • Ancient texts have lots of references to extreme weather, perhaps a handful of people have heard something about a flood?

      As I recall, that minor flood you are talking about was an actual "the end is nigh" type thing that wiped out all life on earth save for a bunch of animals saved by some dude and his family. As well, didn't a bunch of people the problem in the days leading up to that?

    • We're not talking about biblical fairy tales. This is science and it's reality. What is described in the article is just a gentle taste compared to what my grandchildren will face if we don't wake up and smell the carbon.

  3. I'd also caution that weather, even extreme weather, is not climate. Pointing to any particular event, or even a cluster of them isn't good science. It wasn't when it was the inactivists using it, and it's not now. This current set of events may yet be a blip. A concerning blip, to be sure, and one that agrees with the predictions made, but it's still just a blip right now.

    • It cannot be proved that any one weather event is a result of global warming; but neither can it be proved that it is not.

      But when the models predict that extreme weather is more likely and sure enough we get more extreme weather events, it's okay for non-scientists to say "I think this was caused by global warming and we need to prepare for more extreme events, as well as cutting down CO2 emissions so the temperatures do not rise as high as if we pretend nothing unusual is happening and just keep wasting oil and gas like fools."

    • "inactivists" — I am so stealing that. :)

  4. These are all examples of extreme weather and, on their own, do not provide scientific evidence for global climate change. Climate encompasses the statistics of precipitation, temperature, wind, cloud formations, humidity and atmospheric pressure averaged over long periods of time. When these factors are averaged, climate for a particular area of the world is defined. If the events of this past summer and winter are averaged into the statistics for the preceding 10, 25, 50 or 100 years, they may slightly but insignificantly impact the overall climate statistics for a given geographic area. For example, if we look at the 2005 hurricane season, it was record-breaking and devastating and, at that time, many so-called experts prophesied that the climate had already changed. Four relatively quiet hurricane seasons since that time have proven that the 2005 season was anomalous…for now and that the prophesies were in error.

    That said, it does appear that more and more extreme weather is occurring, especially in the past 10 to 15 years. I am a firm believer in the thesis of global climate change and my interpretation is that we are now on the cusp of redefining the earth's climate zones. When our offspring look back 50 years from now, they are the ones that will really be aware that climate change, and not just weather changes, has taken place.


    • Extreme variations in climate can be looked at as a response to a constant external perturbation to what was a stable dynamical system. As the dynamical system becomes more and more stressed by the external stimuli, the system becomes more and more unstable, and manifests as extremes in behaviour. Think of a rubber band that you are constantly stretching more and more. Eventually, as you reach the limits of what the system can tolerate, you see a colossal collapse in the system (i.e. the rubberband snaps) and a reset to a different point of stability much different than what existed originally.

      Thinking in terms of averages and statistics only provides a blurred snapshot of what is going on over time.

  5. I'm not sure I have the energy to debate this issue anymore.
    Both sides take things way too far with the choices being: everything is fine or we're all doomed.
    All I care about is making sure that we don't make life on the planet harder than it has to be. That and I'm a big fan of the outdoors.

    • Exactly right. I don't have the energy either to argue about global warming or earthquakes, monsoons, volcanoes, droughts, hurricanes, oil, taxes, lefties, righties, IPCC, world governance or anything else. We are constantly blaming ourselves for everything. It's idiotic.

      We need to stop polluting the air, water and land. That's about it.

      • I have made a similar argument on climate change exchanges here in the past. For the AGW supporters out there, they can't seem to see the forest for the trees. We need to refocus on pollution – what it does to our lungs, cancer rates, drinking water, etc… AGW is just part of a bigger picture of global decay.

    • How many people in Russia have already been doomed by heat? How many people in Pakistan have been doomed by flooding?

  6. ……'its raining cats and dogs'…..or fish or frogs or earthworms..gawd wot nex?

  7. McLean's is always great with hysterical predictions that it conveniently sweeps under the carpet when they don't materialize by trotting out another boogie man to scare the gullible. I invite anyone to look at a front cover of a McLean's from two summers ago. Oil will reach 200 a bbl. Your life will never be the same…bla..bla..bla. Well oil is 71 a bbl today. Earlier this year we were told by another cover story by this mag to expect Canada's economy to totally tank with a double dip recession of biblical proportions. Still waiting. Perhaps they can revisit the swine flu non-event if all else fails.Cheers.

    • The price of oil dropped because the global economy dipped into recession and has yet to recover. And even though the economy hasn't recovered, the cost of oil is still very high relative to the recent past.

      What do you think will happen as the global economy recovers and the emerging economies pick up more steam?

      $200 a barrel will seem a bargain.

      • Oil is hovering around $75 right now and the price will eventually rise to $200 or $500 a barrel. How long it will take to get there is unknown.

        All this means is that people make predictions and they are seldom correct. If the economy recovers and we hit $200 then we'll go back into recession, and it will fall back down again. So what? This is our life.

        Oh by the way, where I live we pay about $1 per litre for gas. If you remove the taxes it's about 65 cents. That's full retail price at 65 cents. Don't go telling me that we are running out of oil when we are paying 65 cents per litre. The world is still awash in oil. Even if the oil price doubles to $150 per barrel and we're paying $2 a liter we're still only around $1.30 without the taxes. Still cheap.

        In the EU they pay about $2 per liter now and they drive like maniacs. They don't conservfe in any way. Does not bother them in the least. Oil and gas are going to be around for along time baby. wahoo!

        Solar panels and wind turbines are for losers.

        • Or possibly economists are poorer at predicting the future of the economy than climate scientists at predicting how physical processes will work under various conditions.

          • Exactly both camps are cranking out alarmist crap to keep the bucks flowing i.
            snake oil salesmen, the lot of them.

        • Awash in oil? Is that why we've gone from an energy return ratio of 50:1 to a ratio of 6:1?

          If we weren't running out of oil, the oilsands wouldn't be profitable. As is the case with all resources, you only go after the hard stuff after you've run out of the easy stuff, and from there it only gets harder. Every ten years on average we double our use. That means every ten years we use twice as much as has ever been used.

          Add to this a global economy that grows at an exponential rate and I think you'd be surprised how quickly you go from plenty to nothing.

          Take the old example of the small drop of water in a large tank in which you are sealed. If the amount increases at a certain percentage every minute, you would be fooled into believing at first that the tank will never fill, and would only know you were in trouble one doubling before it was full, no matter how long it took to get half full.

        • "In the EU they pay about $2 per liter now and they drive like maniacs. They don't conservfe in any way."

          Per Capita oil consumption is 3 times higher in the US than in Europe.
          The average vehicle fuel efficiency of vehicles in Europe is double that in the US.

          • Statistics are for losers as well.

          • As is intellectual integrity. Apparently you have to be stupid, dishonest and immature to be a winner.

  8. There go the MacLeans people again, screaming that the sky is falling. I keep telling them that climate change is dead but they ignore me. I think they are in denial. Denialists!

    Climate alarmists, environmentalists, climatologists and politicians have lost all credibility when it comes to climate change scare mongering. Now even politicians won't speak of it, climate change is the kiss of death for their careers. I can't wait for the mid-term elections in the USA, this should be entertaining.

    Climate change is dead. It's over, go home, you lost.

    • klem, go home, your comment testifies your brain is dead as well..no gray or any other matter present..

      • What the heck does that mean? Good come-back there Mr. Geocache. Lol!

        • Who is screaming?

  9. But the longer people insist on living in places where they shouldn't—think Louisiana or even some small coastal communities in Canada—and the more we delay improving infrastructure and mitigating the effects of greenhouse gases, the more danger is lurking.

    There, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are seeing more catastrophic weather events. There are more of us around to feel the brunt of the catastrophes. There are especially more and more of us in jurisdictions the least able to deal with public health and sanitation, even on a good day. And Katrina showed us that there is a substantial proportion of the population unable to take care of itself even when faced with incontrovertible evidence — no, not climate change kind of evidence, but you-people-live-below-sea-level kind of evidence.

    • Wow, this is spooky. An hour or so after I point out that huge human settlements in high risk zones is the reason catastrophes happen, I come across this: Study Finds No Link Tying Disaster Losses to Human-Driven Warming.

      And what right-wing knuckle-dragging flat-earther spread such gossip? Well, have a look: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/stud

      • Good find, just read the paper. It focuses on global monetary costs from extreme weather exclusively, well it actually summarizes a large number of studies that look at the issue. Certainly some people will be interested in the cost of weather, but these studies basically admit that the concentration of wealth & weather in Florida means it has an enormous disproportionate effect on their studies. Katrina (I know not Florida) is orders of magnitude bigger than the Pakistan floods by a $ measure) The rational for using $ in place of some measure of actual weather measure seems to be simply that is/was available/easier.

  10. And in the early 1970s, it was the ICE AGE that was gonna kill us all off with calamitous events.

    It's odd that the only way to survive on this planet is for climate patterns to remain stable, plus-or-minus 0.2deg F, with 1973 climate. How did life on Earth ever get this far?

    • *sigh* Myth #8

      • Well, that clears things up.
        That link to the Aussie website run by Captain Cook`s grandson, who has studied all about the sun, should teach that madeyoulook character not to question your wisdom.

        • He can question mine all he'd like. Sometimes I'd even agree.

          I'd just like it if he'd once in a while question his own.

    • It's changed a lot like when a meteorite struck the earth 60 million years ago and none of us would want to have been around then. This time we're the meteorite and we can at least slow down what we're doing to avoid the worst of what can happen. Talk of another ice age was tossed around by a handful of people and the idea was never endorsed by any national scientific academy. Now not one national scientific academy disputes the fact that the earth is heating up, we're responsible for what's happening and we're going to regret it.

      • Yes, the main thing to remember is that the last time earth was as hot as it is going to get, human beings had not yet evolved. Since the last ice age we have learned to live and multiply in in regions with relatively stable climates where we could grow food. Now that the climate is becoming less stable, we are going to have more crop failures and more widespread food shortages.

      • I disagree.. disagree that we can slow it down at this point, that is. Russia's already found natural methane release in the Arctic. That's a tipping point which means reinforcing feedback mechanisms are now working. I don't think concentrating on reducing our CO2 emissions at this point will do us any good. What we really need to start looking at is how we're going to feed all the people on this earth, or alternatively, how we're going to be able to defend our food supply for ourselves.

        What we need now are incentives so that we get people looking for ways to handle food production, disease control, pest control, water purification, heat protection, and, as the article points out, disaster response. And we need these things quickly. If we're smart (and we rarely are until too late) we'll also start pushing seriously for energy conservation technologies. Not for CO2 control, but simply because of the risks of a destabilized world making energy harder to come by.

        • You may well be right in that it is too late and we are past the tipping point but we owe to our children to try. According to proposals made by many reputable scientists and engineers, there is still plenty that we can do to slow this thing down and maybe even stop it. Hunkering down in our little corner of this planet will only forstall the enevitable. It's like building a basement bomb shelter to be protected from a nuclear attack.

  11. We need a carbon tax now!…or throw a virgin or two into a volcano…that seems the more organic means of achieving about the same effect on global climate. Plenty of profits still available to the Goricle and his followers though…via Pay-per-view.

    Not sure about how we'd effect the transfer of wealth to the third world under this scheme though.

  12. We could commission a study to determine whether the wide spread use of the VCR is responsible for the spike in global temperatures. Their invention and subsequent proliferation seem to coincide with global warming. Furthermore the recent cooling trend may be the result of more people using DVD players rather than their environmentally unfriendly VCRs. I am sure enough data could be compiled to support the above conclusion but that does not make it a FACT.

    • What is a fact is that increased concentrations of CO2 trap heat. It's a known physical property of CO2.
      What is a fact is that the human population is generating amounts of CO2 well beyond the planet's ability to reabsorb it.

      And what is a fact is that you being sure of something doesn't make it so until you actually go out and get the proof.

  13. CO2 is a minor factor in climate. Dont believe this nonsense, it's been thorougly debunked.

    Hockey stick graph – debunked a number of times.

    Water vapor feedback – completely debunked thanks to a new study by Steve McIntyre.

    Models – shmodels.

    If we were to double CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature would increase by ~ 0.5-1 deg C. No reason to bankrupt the economy or give power to the ecofascists. Adapt, promote energy efficiency, and if a celeb douchebag tells you to reduce your 'footprint' from their private jet, ignore them.

      • dont give me links you tool we've been over this before. any robot can show a link to a source saying anything you want. realclimate is hopelessly compromised as its run by those responsible for climategate.

        tell me, in your own words, why you think the water vapor feedback is real?

        then i'll be impressed.

        • So you're saying you'll discount anything but original research performed right on these boards. Screw the experts, and the people who've been studying this for years.. they're all biased in a massive global conspiracy of scientists that's even bigger than Bildeburg.

          So.. how much of a discount do you get from Alcan when you buy in bulk?

          • no, that's not what im saying. im saying that those like holly stick and i suppose you, who just rely on a select group of experts to tell them what to think yet understand nothing of the actual issue should try and learn something before righteously pretending that posting a link settles the issue.

          • You think I should posts different links that say different things? Sorry kid, the laws of physics won't change to fit into your political ideology.

          • I think you should learn the subject at issue so that you'll:

            1) understand what it is im saying that you pretend to vehemently disagree with
            2) be able to think for yourself
            3) be able to respond without relying on a link

          • If you bothere to visit the links such as the Skeptical science one, you would see that all your feeble little arguments are the same myths that deniosaurs keep repeating over and over again. You are not being original, kid. If you really thought for yourself, you would go over to realclimate and read what they have to say about water vapour and clouds. Why are you trying to argue sceince here? Go talk to some real scientists.

          • Im aware of Monckton. Im definitely not one of his disciples.

          • why dont you go see first if you havent been influenced by the frauds of east anglia and penn state responsible for climategate? oh wait, you have, your only trick is to post links to realclimate.org

            these people have been exposed for all the world to see as corrupt frauds who hid/lost their data, dont reveal their methods, break the law by deleting material for FOI requests, redefine the peer review process to exclude their opponents, admit in private that they are less certain about their conclusions, boast of their tactics to ramp up the fear factor in order to convince people….

            And you think Monckton is full of BS? wow.

          • In fact the real scientists have not been exposed as frauds; that is just one of the big lies you have read over and over on denialist blogs; but it remains a lie.

            If you ever bothered to go and read realclimate, you would see that they are not arguing politics, they are talking about science, which is what real scientists do.

          • i have been on realclimate, and they do talk about science. i have also read the climategate emails first-hand and these scientists have clearly been exposed as frauds by these emails. I dont need blogs to tell me what to think, i went to the source – the climategate emails, and frankly they speak for themselves. One thing they make abundantly clear is that these so-called scientists are not objective seekers of truth. They are pushing an agenda and they are willing to break the law, lie, confuse, corrupt the peer-review process, intimidate, violate the scientific method, and hide and delete data to push this agenda.

  14. People are so funny.

    One simply cannot deny the molecular physics of GHGs, which no one here or anywhere else has done or will do.

    One also cannot deny the obvious statistical fact that the earth's average temperature is trending upward, even as the plotted wave of dynamic weather observations over time continues to rise and fall.

    The only thing one can reasonably argue is the degree of human contribution to this observed warming, which even the most sceptical papers I can find still peg at greater than 20%.

    Perhaps what we're witnessing here is just the typical human psychological resistance to bad news? A confirmation bias or schema?

    Personally I can't explain why people are so heavily in denial, but in any case the only thing our attitudes reflect is how well we prepare for climate change and what things we do to mitigate it.

    In either case the physical reality of the situation will make itself felt, regardless of opinion.

    Meanwhile, some people seem obsessed with asking the question: "…but what if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?…"


    • There are no issues regarding the absorption spectrum of CO2. Skeptics or deniers, or sane people, whatever you want to call them, simply point out that there is no evidence for the strong positive feedbacks which are the basis for most if not all of the alarm. CO2 by itself is just not that potent.

      but what if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?

      finding a clean energy source would be wonderful and would indeed create a better world. solar and wind are probably not the answer. they both have severe drawbacks.

      putting a carbon tax and transferring wealth from the 1st world to 3d world dictators would do nothing to create a better world, in fact it would be just the opposite.

      the shrill alarmists have behaved like petulant children and deserve all the scorn and disgust one can muster. it's wonderful news that people are more and more turned off by the ecofascists screams for attention.

      • I certainly don't disagree with everything you're saying here, but I think your use of language is easily as one sided as those you rail against, especially on the topic of CO2 absorption. There is definitely an ongoing debate in that regard, and so far as I can tell, a plurality of scientist still believe it is a concern.

        I'm completely in agreement that we don't have a plausible replacement for carbon fuels. In fact I have a hard time figuring what we could possibly replace it with, beyond the much touted but never achieved fusion generator.

        • I dont think we disagree on the topic of CO2 absorption. CO2 absorbs light waves in the infrared spectrum. That's that. I think we disagree on the feedbacks.

          All the uncertainty in climate science relates to feedbacks. A hypothesis on water vapor feedbacks which is built in to the models is the basis for the alarm. This hypothesis has been falsified. I can give you a link to a paper falsifying it, should you wish. There is no more basis for the alarm. There are hundreds of groups whose funding (and therefore thousands of jobs) which depend on the alarm being maintained. No surprise that they are reluctant to accept the 'everything's ok, nothing to see here folks' line.

          • I inform my views with facts first and foremost. If there has been a credible refuting of the thesis, then by all means toss me the link.

          • http://rossmckitrick.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4

            that's the link to the paper. a bit of background:

            the alarm is predicated on the fact that CO2 adds a forcing to the climate of ~ 1 degree, and that this rise will lead to other temp increase, particularly because increased heat will increase evaporation and water vapor is a GHG. on its face, its not ridiculous by any means. models have this hypothetical mechanism built into them. a consequence of this hypothetical mechanism predicted by the models is a hotspot in the tropical troposphere. measurements dont show this hotspot. using data from 1980-1999, Santer (an alarmist) suggests that the hotspot might still be within the margin of error, even though its not found in the data. Using data from 1980-2009, mcintyre and mcirtrick show with 99% confidence that the hotspot is not there.

            that's not to say that there are no other possible mechanisms, we just dont know. but it does suggest that the theory upon which our alarm is based is falsified.

          • A hotspot would show up given any sort of warming. Unless you're arguing that warming doesn't cause increased evaporation.

            Since you agree that there has been warming, the lack of a long term hotspot suggests that the explanation given by the US Climate Change Science Program is correct: that there is measurement uncertainty. Probably brought on by trying to measure something long term when the short term variability is nearly double that of the longer term trend. A helluva lot of noise in that data.

            99% confidence that the measurements do not contain the hotspot is not the same as the hotspot not being present if the measurements are off.

            Oh.. and incidentally.. that's Myth #47. However, kudos for picking one of the lesser used ones.

          • Yes, a hotspot would show up given any sort of warming IF "any sort of warming" produces a water vapor feedback. That, once again, is the issue: whether a forcing is amplified by water vapor feedbacks. Informed skeptics dont deny that CO2 produces a forcing and they dont dispute the strength of the CO2 forcing, what they claim is that such forcing (whether CO2 or otherwise) have not been shown to be amplified by this water vapor mechanism.

            As for measurement uncertainty, well that may be the case but then let's have better measurements and settle the issue. Until then, any claims that the "science is settled" is disingenuous at best.

            As for myth #47, well that write-up should be updated to reflect that paper by McKirtrick and McIntyre. As it stands right now it doesnt really dispel the "myth" other than to say its probably a measurement error. Not very convincing.

          • Is Al Gore a denialist stooge? If you agree that the science is not settled, why are you so gun-ho in favour of taking very punitive measures? I see from another comment of yours that you dont think any measures taken to fight AGW are punitive – you seem to believe that we can muster up clean energy and more efficiency by government decree…

          • Because the science does not have to be "settled", it just has to be robust enough to be convincing, and it is getting more robust all the time. The evidence is piling up: almost 40 degrees C in Moscow with thousands dying of heat stroke. Pretty convincing.

          • Arent you confusing weather with climate here? Why are you convinced one way by 40 deg in Moscow but not the other way by freezing temperatures in Florida?

          • Extreme weather can mean too much water in one place and drought in another. But they are saying that Russia has not been so hot in a thousand years. And that is just one piece of evidence. Just like the evidence for evolution of species, there is a growing pile of evidence and the people opposing it are not producing good science to disprove it.

            Remember the heat deaths in Europe a few years ago. See Europe then and Russia now were not prepared for heat waves and did not have enough air conditioning and other ways to keep people cool. This is because their climate did not need it. But with climate change, they are going to need to prepare for more heat waves.

          • one more thing: the paper i cited is highly technical and complex. i took math up to 2nd year of undergrad and the paper contains stuff which is hopelessly beyond my reach. i assume the math is right. assuming the math is right, the hypothetical water vapor feedback has been falsified at 99% confidence.

          • Thanks, I'll have a look.

      • A carbon tax that moves us away from a fossil fuel economy would be a welcome departure from business as usually which sees billions going to various petrotyrants in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  15. Perhaps this explains the resistance of some people to scientific consensus?

    "… Monbiot goes on to echo recent discussions on behavioural psychology from George Lakoff and others: ‘Those who see themselves as individualists and those who respect authority, “tend to dismiss evidence of environmental risks, because the widespread acceptance of such evidence would lead to restrictions on commerce and industry, activities they admire”. Those with more egalitarian values are “more inclined to believe that such activities pose unacceptable risks and should be restricted”.

    These divisions, researchers have found, are better at explaining different responses to information than any other factor. Our ideological filters encourage us to interpret new evidence in ways that reinforce our beliefs. “As a result, groups with opposing values often become more polarised, not less, when exposed to scientifically sound information.”'

    • Such amateur psychiatric evaluation of your ideological opponents should be avoided when possible. It's the most pathetic of all arguments. "You dont just disagree with me, you're psychologically ill".

      I could just as well argue that lefties are closet authoritarians who simply look for any excuse to impose strict regulations on everyone else, and that's why they behave like that when exposed to scientifically invalid information which predicts some imminent disaster. But I wont, because that's not the issue. The issue is what is the evidence for the catastrophic scenarios we've been fed for the last 10 years. There is none.

      • You're obviously applying your own schema here. The quote does not say anyone is "psychologically ill" only that our personal interests and adopted views colour our perception of facts.

        • You cite Monbiot, the shrillest of the shrill environmental ecofascists. He has argued that his opponents just suffer from psychological disorders and that is why they do not see his infinite wisdom. What a pathetic buffoon!

          Of course I dont deny suffering from confirmation bias. I suspect most everybody does. But I find discussions are much more constructive if they focus on the facts, not on the psychological profile of your opponents.

          So what makes you believe the catastrophic scenarios of the IPCC? Any particular piece of empirical evidence or just the 'authority' of the 'scientists'?

          • i would but there's a pay wall

          • Damn, that's a new thing, as I haven't accessed it recently and it was available at the time.

            Figures though, it was something everyone should read! LOL

          • i cant believe the economist is behind a paywall. i thought such atrocities were a thing of the past, like dial-up connections, napster, and AOL.

          • LOL

            Welcome to the age of the information highway, replete with virtual toll booths and endless construction detours.

  16. Why would you think that atmospheric composition would be the primary cause in the past, even if the temps were much higher than today? Many things affect climate.

    We're not making "massive changes" to the atmosphere. CO2 is a trace gas. 350 parts per million, or 0.03%. It also absorbs IR logarithmically, so that going from 200-400 ppm is the same as going from 400-800 ppm.

    • I don't think the sun is particularly hotter today than 300 million years ago. Of course there is cloud formation to consider, but again I doubt there's more today than in the past, at least not enough to account for such a large temperature variation.

      That leaves atmospheric composition, unless you have another?

      As far as massive changes, I'm referring to the fact that the growth in CO2 is currently exponential, so unless we change this aspect, it's going to grow considerably into the future.

      • Milankovich cycles (tilt of the earth), movement of the continents from plate tectonics which affect ocean circulations and thus heat distribution and thus heat content, hypothetically speaking, sun's magnetism could have an impact by blocking cosmic rays which (according to a hypothesis) seed clouds and thus affect albedo – other things can also change the albedo im sure. and all the factors we dont know about.

        • Fair enough, but none of those would account for such a massive increase in temperature, such that the arctic would have an average temp of 30 degree C.

          • neither would a 10x increase in CO2, even if one were to accept the highest plausible value for climate sensitivity of 5 degrees. i suspect ocean currents.

          • I can't agree. The last time CO2 was at 3000ppm, the average temperature in the actric was 30 degrees celsius, and frankly, no matter what internal mechanism we consider, if it isn't amplifying heat in some manner, it can't achieve such a value.

            The simple fact is that CO2 correlates extremely well with global temperatures, and nothing else so far has been shown to be as effective in regulating it.

  17. Prefer to invent your own BS, do you?

  18. Alfanerd: RE Panel and Multivariate Methods for Tests of
    Trend Equivalence in Climate Data Series

    I hate scientific papers. Too many flashbacks to University. I must have PTSD. LOL

    From my cursory review the paper appears merely to refine the methods of measuring atmospheric trends.

    Ultimately I too was defeated by the math, so I rely on the conclusions as you no doubt do.

    What do you make of this?:

    "…In this case the 1979-2009 interval is a 31-year span during which the upward trend in surface data strongly suggests a climate-scale warming process. As noted in the studies cited in the introduction, comparing models to observations in the tropical troposphere is an important aspect of testing explanations of the origins of surface warming…"

    • yes there is no debate that we are currently experiencing a warming trend. that is not the issue. the issue is whether or not we are responsible.

      the paper is very complex and not accessible unless you have some understanding of the issues underlying it. The key point in the part you cited is this:
      "comparing models to observations in the tropical troposphere is an important aspect of testing explanations of the origins of surface warming…"

      The origins of the warming are what's at issue here. If the models are right then we ought to trust their predictions and do all that Gore and co. recommend. If not, then, we dont have to.

      This paper was essentially a test comparing observations with model outputs. The models failed at 99%. That's what's important (assuming the math is correct).

      • I honestly don't see how you're coming to that conclusion.

        This appears to be merely a refinement of measurement practices, and doesn't claim to radically alter anything.

        • No, its main purpose is to provide deniosaurs yet another reason to leap about screeching that this disproves everything the scientists have learned for the past 50 years or so. Then the real scientists will go through the paper slowly and point out what is good and bad about the paper and provide a considered judgment of it, which the deniosaurs will ignore.

          • your main purpose seems to be limited to insulting people over things you have absolutely zero understanding about.

          • I provide good links to real science; you provide ignorant speculation with no basis in reality.

          • that's hilarious. i understand what im talking about so i dont need to post links to make a point. since you're entirely ignorant in the field, you only appeal to authority. consider that for a minute and try and appreciate what it means for your intellect: you have absolutely zero cognitive ability except the ability to appeal to someone else. thank freaking god that you're not representative of human kind otherwise we'd still be in caves.

            if you understood even a little bit about climate science, you would be able to at least try and write a reason for why you think im wrong. all you have are insults and links. absolutely zero original content. zilch. nada. nil.

            you should go back to bigcitylib and show your "wits" there by equating harper to h1tler or something. at least there you will be appreciated.

            or better yet, try and learn something and come up with an original thought or try to actually understand the issues instead of picking a side and just posting links supporting that side.

          • If you were really scientifically literate and wanted scientific arguments, you would be posting at realclimate and deltoid and deep climate instead of BCL's which is more political than anything else. If you are one of his regular deniosaurs, well, I haven't seen a intelligent one there for a long long time, if ever.

            Here's a good website for you. http://www.fool-me-once.com/

            And another http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/200

            Instead opf pretending to have expertise, go do some work and actually learn about the issue. Stop letting your political views warp your critical faculties.

          • Like your first post here? ecofascists? celeb douchebag?

            "…If we were to double CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature would increase by ~ 0.5-1 deg C. No reason to bankrupt the economy or give power to the ecofascists. Adapt, promote energy efficiency, and if a celeb douchebag tells you to reduce your 'footprint' from their private jet, ignore them. .."

          • ecofascists is a fine term which describes perfectly the likes of Gore, Pachauri, and others who would have their lives and those of others run by greepeace if they could. the term fascist is not thrown around loosely. these people would indeed create a totalitarian, authoritarian regime in the name of the 'environment' if they could.

            "celeb douchebags" im sorry if that offended you. i didnt mean justin bieber, as im sure you're a big fan of his. leonardo dicaprio, al gore, sherryl crowe, all these sub-human turds are actually telling us to stop driving cars while they're flying in private jets. do i really need to explain to you how hypocritical that is?

          • "…your main purpose seems to be limited to insulting people over things you have absolutely zero understanding about. …"

            Hypocrite, look in the mirror.

          • no the difference is that i actually do know what im talking about. prove me wrong by responding to at least one of the substantive points i've made.

          • OK, you mentioned water vapor somewhere, so here you go:

            "…Not a single climate model or climate textbook fails to discuss the role water vapor plays in the greenhouse effect. It is the strongest greenhouse gas, contributing 36% to 66% to the overall effect for vapor alone, 66% to 85% when you include clouds. It is however, not considered a climate "forcing," because the amount of H2O in the air basically varies as a function of temperature…"

          • very good Holly that's actually correct. now if you re-read my posts carefully and with an open mind you'll see that my point is that the IPCC's projections are actually based on a hypothetical water vapor feedback – essentially based on what you said, which is true. But that's just a hypothesis at this point. Water vapor also forms clouds which can have a cooling effect. That's actually the nub of the argument, how does the CO2-induced warming (which is real but not that big) influence further warming? or is the CO2-warming dampened by other effects? These are the questions at issue and nobody really knows the answer. The IPCC just thinks the range of possible answers includes very scary scenarios while skeptics believe that most likely the CO2-induced warming is dampened by other mechanisms.

          • The opinions of "skeptics" are worthless because they are not scientists who know anything about climate.

          • Nonsense. Many skeptics are in fact climate scientists who know very much about climate. Im not a climate scientist but I do know quite a bit more than you about climate – by your own logic, your opinion is worthless.

            And besides, we're all going to suffer the consequences of any government action on this so we all have a stake. If the climate scientists want to convince us that they ought to tell us how to run the economy, they need to do a much much better job. Just saying "we're scientists so whatever we say is true even if it doesnt make sense", doesnt cut it for me and many others. Clearly it convinced you but that's not saying much.

          • "…Many skeptics are in fact climate scientists who know very much about climate…."

            No, that is false. Most "skeptics" are not climate scientists or scientists at all.

            You are revealing here the reasons for your failure to face reality. Scientists are telling us what the physical consequences are going to be if we continue our current behaviour. Society, which includes scientists and everybody else, needs to decide how to change our behaviour to lessen and to mitigate the damage we are doing to our only home. We need the best information possible for that, not political lies from people who do not realize that the economy will not survive if the environment crashes. The economy is a susidary of the evironment, not the other way around.

          • "susidary " should be "subsidiary".

          • you're confusing "many" with "most". One is absolute, the other relative.

            similarly, in absolute terms there are more pro-agw alarmists who are essentially a bunch of greenpeace hippies who never held a real job and who havent had a shower in months then there are climate scientists.

            "most alarmists are stupid dirty hippies"
            is a true statement.

            and so is:
            "many alarmists are climate scientists"

            the two are not exclusive.

            Geez, I had to pay tuition to get my logic 101 class and im giving it away here for free.

      • No it doesnt, you have to read between the lines and you have to know what they're testing to understand the signficance of it. they dont tell you outright, but they do give you a hint in the intro:

        For discussions of the importance of modeling and climatological measurement issues related to the tropical atmosphere see Karl et al. (2006) Santer et al. (2005, 2008)and Douglass et al. (2007).

        Anyways, I understand your skepticism because frankly the paper on its own doesnt make any major claim like that. But if you understand what the paper says, then its importance is clear.

        Let me try it this way:

        the paper presents refinements of measurements practices as you said. specifically they refine methods for comparing trends across different data sets.

        so far so good.

        then they apply their method in section 3. they use observed tropical mid-troposphere and low-troposphere temperature data with modeled data.

        using their methods they establish that the observed data and the temperature data are different at 99%.

        still with me?

        now, why did mcintyre and mckirtrick use these particular data sets for testing these methods. they could have used any data sets. because these data sets have a particular importance in the field of AGW.

        global warming deniers (informed ones at least) know that the weak point of the IPCC's case is the water vapor feedback and they know that the water vapor feedback can be confirmed/falsified by verifying the presence of a hotspot in the tropical troposphere.

        by comparing the models, which contain a hotspot in the troposphere, with observed temperatures, we can confirm/falsify whether the models are correct (in that regard at least). we now know they are not.

        • While I don't think it's that simple, I will agree that refining the modelling so that it is more predictive and rules out a certain range of posibilities is a good thing.

          Ultimately though the time-sets in question are too short to tell us much besides bringing into question the previous future modelling, which I always thought was a little too hyperbolic.

          Realistically changes of this nature should take centuries to be felt, so suggesting that only 50 years of heavy CO2 production would cause massive SUDDEN changes NOW never made any sense to me. Especially since the geological record shows a centuries long lag between GHGs and temperature in every case one cares to study.

          • Well I agree with what you said – we dont know enough to predict the climate 10 years from now, let alone 50 years from now, and these hypotheses of the IPCC wont be fully tested until then. So we dont know. That's essentially my point from the beginning. We dont know. Let's not bankrupt the economy over something we're not sure about.

          • How do you "know" that becoming less wasteful and more energy-efficient would bankrupt the economy? Where's your peer-reviewed evidence of that?

          • Becoming less wasteful and more energy-efficient are absolutely valid and noble ends in and of themselves. That is not the issue. Making our main energy source more expensive though, that's a no-brainer.

            Notwithstanding the obvious frauds and corruption which would inevitably accompany trading in carbon credits or similar nonsense, the real issue is making energy more expensive.

            Energy is the lifeblood of the economy – Im boldly stating that without a "peer-reviewed reference", it is essentially self-evident. If you make this lifeblood more expensive, the economy will suffer greatly. Again, this is rather straightforward.

          • The cheaper you make energy, the faster it will all be used up. There is not an endless supply of fossil energy. It would be much more intelligetn to use renewable energy as much as possible.

            Canada is going to be left far behind by the other countries which are now switching to renewable energy. We are going to be a stupid, polluted backwater.

          • If you prevent people from using energy today, you will bankrupt the economy and developing renewable energy is going to be even more difficult in economically difficult times. When renewable energies become feasible, I'll be cheering too. But the idea that you must hurt all sectors of the economy in order to spur innovation is so far removed from any sensible view of the economy, I dont even know where to start.

          • I repeat: if the environment crashes, the economy crashes. Current example: Pakistan.

          • Agreed. No reason to crash the economy before the environment crashes, if the environment crashes at all.

          • (Eyes rolling) The way we run our economy now is the cause of the the environmental crash which is also happening right now. If we continue as we are, we are committing collective suicide.

          • It's argued by many intelligent and well regarded economists and sociologists that the level of complexity in our society is only possible because we currently enjoy high return ratios in energy production.

            The solution therefore isn't to limit the use of energy per se, but to make the production and use of energy sustainable in the broadest sense. To do otherwise really would endanger our societies and their economies.

            Personally I think our only hope in this regard is fusion power. Used to generate electricity, coupled with magnetic batteries through the recently discovered process dubbed "spintronics" we could produce and use copious amounts of energy with a neglible footprint.

    • Very convincing.

      You should have a look Alfanerd.

      • perhaps. i will when i get home because i dont want to watch a video from work. im weary of anything holly stick posts though. he/she/it is the definition of a troll.

        i dont know why but one of my comments keeps disappearing. essentially im saying that yes, co2 corelates with temperature (and co2 lags temperature, because high temps release co2 from oceans). so the relationship is well established but its in the opposite direction than the one you need.

        also, as for 30 deg arctic millions of years ago, its probably more to do with ocean currents than CO2.

        • Well the video deals with the CO2 lagging question as well, and is also very convincing.

          The entire thing is essentially from the perspective of the geological record, and if you can get past the intro, is fairly straight forward in arguing the point.

          • ok thanks i will check it out (on your recommandation, not the holy sh1t entity)

  19. I have lived through droughts, which are not fun.

  20. The mammoth and other gigantic animals of the pasts were victims of climate change. What's the difference between the climate change then and the now?

    • One hypothesis is climate change; another is over-hunting buy humans; or both; or something else.

      The difference is that now there are many humans who rely on agriculture for our food; and as the climate gets more unstable there will be more crop failures.

    • The gigantic animals had even bigger honking SUVs to get around in?

    • Not much really. It'll lead to the same types of die-off of certain species if it gets out of hand.

      That's the real concern really, that our world will change considerably and we'll have to adapt to those changes.

      It's really only the worst case scenarios that truly endanger us personally, though we may not recognize our homelands in the future even if not.

      The perspective of paleo geologists is quite convincing in terms of the impact.

    • The climate change that killed off the mammoths if that's what it was (and there are a lot of theories about what brought their extinction) took centuries to unfold. Now it's happening in a matter of decades. The humans that were around then (possibly no more than 100,000) just had to pick pick up their few simple belongings and start walking. Now we number in the billions and we don't do too well with just the things that we can carry. This time it may be us that die off but unlike the situation that faced the mammoths, it will be our fault.

  21. Heidi Cullen is pretty low impact as far as global warming alarmists go. She's a presenter on the US Weather Channel and a long time propagator of AGW theory. Maclean's may have done themselves a favour by balancing her bias with a representative from the skeptic camp however failed to do so. BTW will Maclean's be doing a story on James Cameron's cut and run from the climate alarmist convention in Aspen?

    • I guess the problem with providing that type of "balance" is finding a credible scientist who can make the argument clearly and concisely. While I think those resisting the thesis have some very valid points to make, in terms of science they're essentially just pointing out alternative theories that are based on less evidence than the current one.

      So while they could be correct, from the perspective of gathered evidence, their theories tend to be far less developed and scattered, in that there is essentially no consensus on cause amongst them, other than to say they doubt the CO2 climate regulation theory.

  22. Ok….one more time.

    The question is NOT whether the earth is going through a warming phase, the question is whether it is caused by us. There is no REAL SCIENTIFIC evidence it is caused by man. That's a FACT.
    Every model ever created to predict climate….has been wrong. 100% of the time.
    Every other scientist who has made the claim about man being the cause…has been debunked, and their numbers refuted.

    If the earth is getting warmer, what do we do about it?

    Option 1 – tax carbon to reduce emissions.
    Option 2 – mitigate potential problems before they present themselves.

    I would say it is pretty clear we pick door number two. The next time some asshat like Suzuki or Gore demand a carbon tax to save Bangledeshi's, I recomment we present them will a different option.

    Move your house further away from the water, build some dikes, and put your house on stilts.


    • "…There is no REAL SCIENTIFIC evidence it is caused by man. That's a FACT…"

      If you mean direct modern observations concerning the effect of what we're currently dumping into atmosphere, then you're correct. The modelling's a mess IMO.

      However, the geological evidence overwhelmingly points to CO2 as a major determining factor in climate. Too much and the earth heats up until other factors kick in to lower it. Too little and the earth cools until other factors kick in to raise it.

      The problem being that you have to put up with 500 000 years of cold/heat until these factors kick in enough to mitigate it.

      That's about 7100 generations of humans.

      • Actually there's plenty of empirical evidence:

        "…Direct observations find that CO2 is rising sharply due to human activity. Satellite and surface measurements find less energy is escaping to space at CO2 absorption wavelengths. Ocean and surface temperature measurements find the planet continues to accumulate heat. This gives a line of empirical evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing global warming…"

        "…Confirmation that rising carbon dioxide levels are due to human activity comes from analysing the types of carbon found in the air. The carbon atom has several different isotopes (eg – different number of neutrons). Carbon 12 has 6 neutrons, carbon 13 has 7 neutrons. Plants have a lower C13/C12 ratio than in the atmosphere. If rising atmospheric CO2 comes fossil fuels, the C13/C12 should be falling. Indeed this is what is occuring (Ghosh 2003) and the trend correlates with the trend in global emissions…"

        • There is no doubt we're raising the levels of CO2. I'm not sure what kind of nut tries to deny that one, when it's so easily measured. What I was referring to more so was that we can't neccesarily accurately predict the effective difference between say 400ppm and 800ppm in terms of climate. It is assumed there is some elasticity within the system to handle minor increases.

          The real issue is that we are still increasing output exponentially and at a very high rate. This gives us very little time to act once we really start seeing the effects pile up. In fact you could easily argue it would be too late by that point.

          So while the difference between say 400ppm and 800ppm may be minor, since we currently have an output doubling time of only 30 years, within 150 years we could be looking at an accumulated total upwards of 2500ppm, which based on the geological record, could be catastrophic in terms of the effect on the ecosystem.

    • As (I believe) you've suggested, it's not so much whether or not we may be experiencing (possibly temporary) global warming but whether or not man has any influence. If we ignore the hype and instead look at the raw unadulterated data, there is zero (0) evidence that increased CO2 levels have any significant effect on global temperatures.
      In fact, recent ice core samples reveal that CO2 levels rose and fell hundreds of years AFTER any noted temperature changes.
      For those who might claim that CO2 may not initiate a temperature increase but merely amplifies the increase in temperature, they've obviously neglected to consider the outcome of their claims. They've failed to consider the vicious cycle effect which would result in steadily increasing temperatures causing the entire earth to be scorched of all life. Although we know of much higher levels of CO2 in the past, along with a much 'greener' world, we don't have any records of the earth having experienced such an event.
      If indeed there is global warming (doubtful but possible), we need to look for another cause. If we are really concerned about the future of mankind, then we had better lean how to deal with the predicted increase in temperature rather than wasting time, money, and resources running around claiming 'the sky is falling' and trying to bleed money away from the working people.
      Moving away from the edges of cliffs overhanging the ocean, out of the flood planes, and out of dyked lands might be a good start.

      • Your argument is not logical Spock.

        The vicious cycle you speak of has limits you are not recognizing, such as the effect of rock-weathering which lowers the amount of CO2 over time, in addition to that removed by plants and such.

        So there are a number of natural regulators that keep the earth within a temperature boundary that ensures liquid water.

        The problem however is that it takes hundreds of thousands of years for these factors to work, and in the mean time you can have time periods of extreme heat or cold that cause massive extinction events like the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum.

        • Oh, I recognize the limits, of which there are many. That's the point.
          Thank you for your confirmation.

          • Of course there are limits. Geologically they're obvious, but also very slow to act, resulting in a number of extinction events in the past.

            What is also geologically obvious is that we cannot explain the entirety of the changes without acknowledging that CO2 is a factor that both drives and amplifies temperatures.

            There is a reason why there are no alternative theories that can accurately model the geological record.

      • "…there is zero (0) evidence that increased CO2 levels have any significant effect on global temperatures. .."

        False. That is basic physics.

        "…Natural climate change in the past proves that climate is sensitive to an energy imbalance. If the planet accumulates heat, global temperatures will go up. Currently, CO2 is imposing an energy imbalance due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Past climate change actually provides evidence for our climate's sensitivity to CO2. .."

        "…When the Earth comes out of an ice age, the warming is not initiated by CO2 but by changes in the Earth's orbit. The warming causes the oceans to give up CO2. The CO2 amplifies the warming and mixes through the atmosphere, spreading warming throughout the planet. So CO2 causes warming AND rising temperature causes CO2 rise…"

        If you honestly want to know the rfacts, go and watch this. Pay attention: http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture

        • Many seem confused into believing that increasing greenhouse gases and global warming are the same. They are not but rather exist as two separate topics. Proving that there is an increase in greenhouse gases in no way proves that such increases leads to global warming.
          Four points pointed out by another writer noted:
          1. The greenhouse signature is missing. Weather balloons scanning the skies have failed to find any sign of the telltale 'hot spot' warming pattern that greenhouse gases would leave.
          2. In contrast to some of the older ideas, newer data has clearly demonstrated that rather than carbon increasing temperatures, that in the past global temperature increases lead the increase in CO2 by an average of 800 years.
          3. Over a 10-year period of time, satellites circling the earth twice a day have failed to note any increase in temperatures. CO2 has been increasing but temperatures have remained relatively flat. Computer models simply don't know what it is.
          4. Although CO2 molecules may have some warming effect, adding extra has a less and less effect. At a time when carbon levels were 10 times higher, the earth slipped into an ice age.

          In all cases, something else must have caused the warming.

          • I guess you are not interested in learning the facts, just in repeating the same old denialist lies. You have come up with myths #47, 11, 37 and 45; Check a few more while you are there.

          • Oops, I hadn't realized that you were so sensitive or I wouldn't have responded to your (what I erroneously had considered serious and thought-out) message.
            For your own information, I've been interested in and have been studying and learning about climate and climate change since 1973. Do I have all the answers? Definitely not but I'm working on it!
            However, one further question:
            You assert that I am 'repeating the same old denialist lies.' How do those who are skeptical of the climate change misinformation touted in the main media become denialist? Those skeptics don't have to prove anything. They are not asking for money or power. Rather, the onus is on people like yourself to explain your case and demonstrate proof of your statements.
            Good science is not done by consensus and is not democratic. Natural laws are not made by voting. Sun shine, clouds, oceans, etc. do not give a damn what Suzuki or Gore think. They are what they are and they do what they do and we need to understand that, not bend the facts to fit our desires.

          • Obviously you are not interested in learning the facts.

          • Spock, CO2 is only one driver of warming. In fact it's influence is factored at about only 20% compared to say water vapour which accounts for 50%.

            Under normal circumstances CO2 levels remain somewhat balanced, it takes massive changes for CO2 to get out of hand one way or another.

            However, we're increasing the levels at an exponential rate, with a doubling time of ~30 years, which means within the next 150 years, if nothing changes, we'll have pumped levels to geologically historic levels, ie greater than 2500ppm.

            The last time we saw levels like that, 90% of the species on the planet were wiped out.

  23. For Holly:



    • According to astro-phsyics the sun is extremely stable and constant and only changes significantly over billions of years. If it did change regularly then you'd be right, but the evidence doesn't support the sun as the primary determinant in CHANGING climate in and of itself.

  24. sorry…should be


  25. I'm starting to wonder why I even bother being 'green'.
    I won't be here anyway, and why try to improve the Earth for future generations of people who won't believe that decreasing the pollution is a good thing.

    • Perhaps I'll go out and burn some tires.
      Forget paying $2. a bag for garbage pick-up when I can burn it.

    • They will know from experience that increasing pollution was a bad thing.

      • I really don't think they will.

    • JSC:
      Although the global warming fiasco has so often been connected/confused with environmental destruction, we can hardly be blamed for throwing up our hands in despair. Maybe there is possibly a positive outcome. If we can realign our focus on what is real and on reasonable actions where we can have a positive effect, then all may not be lost.
      If all this causes us to more seriously reconsider our unrestricted and unsustainable population growth, our abuse of the environment (much related to overpopulation), and worthwhile actions we can take (forget the CO2 nonsense) should we really be experiencing global warming, then all this might be worthwhile.
      Don't give up hope.

  26. I've been following Lovelock for a couple of decades. (Google "Gaia Theory" if needed)
    Like many others, he now says we have already passed the point of no return:
    If we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow – we are still f**ked by AGW.
    Good news:
    Lovelock believes the species will survive – after a die-off to about 200M people surviving in a few enclaves.

    • I've been saying for years that the population of the Earth is about 5 billion too many.
      The sooner humans are wiped off it, the better.

      • Lovely. Volunteering to go first?

    • I'm reading Lovelock as well and the death rate that he has predicted may well be in the billions but he does toss out some solutions that are an anathema to many of "greens". That is nuclear power. At least the small amount of nuclear waste is easier to deal with than carbon.

  27. "…it is misleading to say that temperature rose and then, hundreds of years later, CO2 rose. These warming periods lasted for 5,000 to 10,000 years… so for the majority of that time… temperature and CO2 rose together.

    The current understanding… is that changes in orbital parameters (the Milankovich and other cycles) caused greater amounts of summer sunlight to fall in the northern hemisphere. This is a small forcing, but it caused ice to retreat in the north, which changed the albedo. This change… led to further warmth, in a feedback effect. Some number of centuries after that process started, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere began to rise, which amplified the warming trend even further as an additional feedback mechanism…"

  28. "…So it is correct that CO2 did not trigger the warmings, but it definitely contributed to them — and according to climate theory and model experiments, greenhouse gas forcing was the dominant factor in the magnitude of the ultimate change.

    This raises a warning for the future: we may well see additional natural CO2 come out of the woodwork as whatever process took place repeatedly over the last 650K years begins to play out again. The likely candidates are out-gassing from warming ocean waters, carbon from warming soils, and methane from melting permafrost…"

  29. Says a non-scientist who doesn't know what he is talking about. Oh, that's reassuring.

    • La Nina affects Russia how, exactly? Since it is an event in the tropical Pacific Ocean and tends to cause cooling? Are you saying Russia would have been even hotter without La Nina?

  30. Try, dear Macleans, try to do a little research before spilling ink on "extreme weather" and climate change.

    It's weather people. Not very nice weather, but weather.

    And, given the reversal of the the PDO and the La Nina rapidly forming, you can bet we are in for a cold Northern Hemisphere winter just as there has just been a cold Southern Hemisphere winter.

    If, Macleans, you must cover weather fine; but if you are going to cover climate you are going to have to get current. The surface temperature record is almost certainly inaccurate. The oceans are cooling. World ice is increasing (Arctic fairly stable, Antarctic ice increasing significantly.) If you insist on parroting the Gorian line you will simply look further and further out of touch…sort of like the Globe and Mail.

    • Did you actually read all of your own link?

      "…As we learn from our 2010 experience what a sustained heat wave of +5°C to+10°C implies for human health, water resources, and agricultural productivity, a more meaningful appreciation for the potential consequences of the projected climate changes will emerge. It is clear that the random occurrence of a summertime block in the presence of the projected changes in future surface temperature would produce heat waves materially more severe than the 2010 event…"

      As for the rest of your bilge: Suface temperature record inaccurate… Myth #6, Oceans cooling Myth #28, ice increaseing Myths #10, 22, 44, 61 & 85 etc., etc., ad nauseum.

      • Keep testifying Holly…

        The surface record is so good, so accurate, so uncontaminated that the Met Office is redoing the whole thing:

        And you other myths routine is about as accurate.

        • Again you failed to read your own link:

          "…This current exercise should not be interpreted as a fundamental questioning of these previous efforts. But these pre-existing datasets cannot answer all the questions that society is now quite rightly asking…"

          • Given the investment the Met has in the pre-existing surface temperature record I hardly expected them to announce that the "pre-existing datasets" are rubbish and Phil Jones wouldn't know an Urban Heat Effect if he fell over one. But the fact remains that the Met office is doing a complete do over – not something one would expect if they thought the earlier dataset was sound.

  31. People keep talking about La Nina and other weather artifacts in reference to the increase of extreme weather, but miss the irony of doing so.

    Our records show that the weather is becoming more and more extreme, even during the solar minimum, and yet these mechanisms being discussed have existed in their current form for many centuries.

    Surely if this was strictly a result of these mechanisms, there would be more historical precedent for the weather extremes?

    That this is not the case suggests to me that other factors are involved.

  32. If this debate is to be carried on in an adult fashion let's try to get a few things out of the way:
    1. Give up the putdowns against Gore and Suzuki
    – Gore has more wins than any of us, namely an academy award, a Nobel prize and the popular vote during the 2000 US presidential election and it's a pretty fair bet that he would have been smart enough to stay out of Iraq
    – Suzuki has a PhD in zoology which gives him a few more letters after his name than me or I dare say anyone else who's commenting here. That makes him very smart and well educated and it's usually a good idea to listen to such people. I'll listen to my doctor for that reason.
    2. Let's keep the ideological rants out of this. President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel are leaders of right of centre/conservative governments in France and Germany and are making considerable progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries because they take the issue seriously. The Australian Labour Party (aka socialist) is obviously in bed with Big Coal and China, a Communist dictatership is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

  33. To those who claim that scientists referred to in the Macleans cover story are just following the money, consider: University level researchers are not warning of the dangers of global warming because they get such enormous grants and handsome salaries. Most of them aren't earning much more than a high school science teacher. The big money is in private industry.

  34. How unfortunate that Gulli and Henheffer – rather than banging that tired old alarmism drum – neglected to take into consideration some very sound advice offered by Macleans editors (Aug. 2):

    "You can't beat the heat. So why not enjoy it?" Not much consolation to those affected by the fires and smog, etc., I agree. But, consider (as did the editors) the words of 1998's Nobel physicist, Robert B. Laughlin:

    " Climate change, by contrast, is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone's permission or explaining itself. The earth doesn't include the potentially catastrophic effects on civilization in its planning." [cont'd in next post]

  35. [As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by an undefined max word count …Laughlin concludes:]

    Far from being responsible for damaging the earth's climate, civilization might not be able to forestall any of these terrible changes once the earth has decided to make them. Were the earth determined to freeze Canada again, for example, it's difficult to imagine doing anything except selling your real estate in Canada. If it decides to melt Greenland, it might be best to unload your property in Bangladesh. The geologic record suggests that climate ought not to concern us too much when we're gazing into the energy future, not because it's unimportant, but because it's beyond our power to control."

    Certainly makes far more sense than anything that has emanated from the keyboard of Dr. Michael E<ven when he's wrong he's right> Mann and his coterie of post-normal CRU cohorts.

    • Standard fallacy: It was natural every time it happened before, therefore it's natural now.

      It's like concluding that since every dog you've seen today has been black, all dogs are black.

      The problem is that basically every natural driver of climate that we know of, with the exception of CO2, indicates that global temperatures should be remaining stable or even cooling off right now. They're not. And if it is caused by our activities, then our activities can make a difference, or at least, they could have until we started to set off the natural tipping points the earth itself has, such as the release of methane gas from the arctic.

      • Hmmmm … Too bad you didn't read the article to which I had linked – rather than jumping onto the "computer models tell us this, therefore it must be true" bandwagon. I am far more inclined to give credence to the conclusions of a pre-post-modernist physicist than to the unsupported assertions of a pseudonymous poster.

        But if you want to count yourself amongst those who choose to put all their eggs in the carbon basket, by all means be my guest!

        • All he's saying is that earth will abide these changes. However, human beings are more fragile, and none of us will be around in a million years.

          So what exactly is your point? That you don't care if almost all species of life on earth die because in a few million years there will be lots of oil again? Or what?

          • It wasn't *my* point, but rather that of Dr. Laughlin: in essence he was saying that it is beyond our power to "change" the earth's climate. So the alarmists and doomsayers (such as Heidi Cullen, whose utterances Gulli and Henheffer fail to examine with any measure of critical thinking) would be better off giving consideration to that which we do have the power to change.

            But if you've decided to make the leap of faith required by the tenets of CAGW, i.e. that the only path to salvation of the planet and our species lies in drastic reductions of our C02 (because the computer models say so), far be it from me to interfere with your delusions.

          • So you carefully pick out a throwaway line from someone whose field of study does not include the causes and effects of climate change, and you're going to base your plans for the future on that? You think he's the final authority? Why?

          • Heidi Cullen is a climatologistmwho has been studying climatology ocean-atmosphere dynamics for years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Cullen

            Robert B. McLaughlin is a physicist who won a Nobel prize for his research in theoretical physics, not in the field of climatology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_B._Laughlin

            Note that earlier in his article, Laughlin contradicts his final sentence by saying that what we do does affect climate: "…Carbon dioxide from the human burning of fossil fuel is building up in the atmosphere at a frightening pace, enough to double the present concentration in a century. This buildup has the potential to raise average temperatures on the earth several degrees centigrade, enough to modify the weather and accelerate melting of the polar ice sheets…"

        • So.. rather than believe the thousands of climate scientists who've been studying these phenomena for years, you choose to believe a scientist from an unrelated field.

          Let me guess.. you get your medical advise from Miss Cleo as well? After all.. what the hell can all those doctors know if it doesn't agree with your preconceived notions, right?

  36. You'll get no response because they cannot find one.

    • I know. Sad isn't it? You ask for logical, scientific debate and you get silence. But I think my point has been made.

  37. It is hard not to think that something is screwy with the globe when you look at some of the weird weather happenings. We have had one of the wettest summers ever here in Alberta and I am not sure what to expect for this winter?!?!

  38. i strongle believe that climate change is happening as we speak. The world has been change so much and end of the world is close. I'm not talking about 2012 or end of earth. I'm talking about humans life. I have this strange feelings about everything is happening. Don't you people have this kind of feelings when it comes to what will happen next in our lives. In the past few years living in Toronto, I felt something is different in weather. We used to have cold winters with lots of snow. As to now, we had only warm winters. I think something big is our way. God safe us all.